Shaving and Razor Blades

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 | | 0 comments »

Gillette and Schick have cornered the shaving market. About 700 million consumers use Gillette razor blades worldwide. They also practice excellent loss-leader marketing. They sell shaving razors at a loss in order to make a huge profit on replacement blades. Sometimes a new razor with 3 blades on sale is cheaper than just buying a 5 pack of replacement blades.

How Razor Blades Become Dull

A razor blade becomes dull because its sharp cutting edge is physically worn off. When the blade cuts hair tiny abrasions form on the blade's sharp edge. Oxidation is also occurs as the steel in the blade comes in contact with moisture. Microscopic rust forms on the blade and these rust particles fall off during shaving. Over a few days your blade is dull. It no longer cuts hair but tears it off. The blade will have to be replaced.

New razor blades do not have a smooth, sharp surface. View under a microscope they have a tapered edge with indentations in the cutting surface. As the number of indentations increases the blade become duller.

Picture 1 - The tapered edge of a razor blade 1000x magnification (California State University)
Picture 2 - Indents in a brand new razor blade 8,500x magnification (Institute of Meteoritics)

Extending the Life of a Razor Blade

Following these methods should extend the life of your razor blade. However in the end the blade will become dull and for a smooth, clean shave you will have to replace the blade.

Don't shave.
If there is no need to shave, then don't. It is the weekend and you are not going to work or out with friends. You do not need to look your best to run errands. By not shaving as often you will save money and time. The razor blade will have to cut the same number of hairs whether each hair is 1mm long or 2mm long.

Wet your face properly.
You should shave your face after you take a shower. Your hair will be wetter and thoroughly soaked when shaving. Think of you hair as noodles. Wet noodles are weaker than dry noodles but you have to soak them properly. The tensile strength of hair is greatly reduced when wet. Splashing water on your face does not soak your hair. The razor blade can cut easier and this reduces wear.

Dry your blade after use.
The steel on the blade oxidizes when exposed to air. This oxidization accelerates when water is present. Drying your blade after use and storing it in a dry atmosphere is the best way to prolong the life of your blade. You can do it by tapping your razor against the side of the sink. If possible store your blade outside of the bathroom. The air in bathrooms is usually humid and moist.

Methods of Sharpening Razor Blades That Don’t Work

Magnetic Blade Sharpener

This product claims that by placing the head of the razor against its magnetic surface the blade will become sharper. This cannot work. This method does not physically grind a new edge on the old blade, nor does it add any new steel to the worn edge. Steel molecules do not exist in air and cannot just reattach or realign themselves to the blade's cutting edge.

The Pyramid

This product is a four sided pyramid that the razor blade is stored in when not in use. It claims to maintain the sharpness of the razor blade because pyramids are mystical and have been used by the ancient Egyptians. There is simply evidence that can support this claim. At best the pyramid keeps the blade from being exposed to moisture in the air. You can achieve the same result by storing your razor in a zip lock bag.

Methods of Sharpening Razor Blades That May Work

Save a Blade

A battery operated machine that rotates a `silicone carbide sharpener` over the blade. It claims to sharpen the razor blade and prolong its use for up to 4 times the normal length. Some people have tried it and claims that it works. I plan on purchasing this product and trying it myself. I will follow up with a post.